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Jun 24, 2014

Is anyone doubting Mexico?

ESPN's expert panel breaks down Mexico's impressive second-half performance against Croatia as they persevered to the knockout round.

RECIFE, Brazil -- How do you explain it? How is a Mexico team destined for failure now one of the success stories of the World Cup? It's been against all the odds and against everybody's predictions. I said as much in my earlier columns: This team can rise above it. I've never seen players who give more of their all on the pitch in order to achieve the result.

- Jones: Mexico earns redemption at World Cup
- Hernandez: Mexico hoping to carry momentum
- Marshall: Mexico grades: El Tri advances

They don't need to hide from the media, or to act surly. They don't need to seek out the best technology to fine-tune and create better players. Nor do they need to lock themselves behind closed doors so that their "opponent" doesn't uncover their tactics, in such a globalized soccer world. No. This team has the modesty, the true unity and the genuine mindset to make soccer history.

It's there for all to see. You can feel it in the words and actions of the squad. They stamped out the idiotic poses of some players when things went well or badly. They are authentic, they are themselves. Much of this is down to head coach Miguel Herrera. They say that a group resembles its leader. Do you not see a similarity between this squad and "El Piojo"?

Andres Guardado is relaxed -- even fearless -- when talking to reporters. Guillermo Ochoa went back to being the same: an unassuming guy, great on the pitch and off it. Rafael Marquez is happy to talk about any topic, when the opposite always used to be the case. Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez may receive the harshest criticism, but he never refuses an interview, even to the harshest critic.

What can you say about Javier Hernandez, who has come out with some strong statements but doesn't blame the media for misinterpreting his words? He faces up to them. He responds with his customary humility, whatever the time and place. This makes it clear that now, more than ever, the players have taken on board the idea that in order to triumph, they need to start with basic and common values.

Guillermo Ochoa's heroics in goal is one of the many reasons why Mexico is in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Guillermo Ochoa's heroics in goal is one of the many reasons why Mexico is in the last 16 of the World Cup.

In strictly soccer terms, it comes as no surprise to see a substituted player leaving the pitch, but not before giving his replacement a warm embrace. They celebrate their goals as one, uncontrollably. They are respectful to each other and their opponent. Did anyone resort to provocation against the Croatians? No one. Not even in a victory that proves that revenge is a dish best served cold.

To speak of Mexico is to speak of a team that is one with the passion of the people. Who know that in any play, in any instant and moment, millions of people are hanging on their every move. This "Tri" may or may not play a fifth game, but they already left a good taste in the mouth, and I would even go as far as to assure you that Herrera will continue to lead the team.

Does anyone doubt now that Mexico could play a fifth game? No. There'll always be some, but I'm certain that nobody can deny this Mexican representative the right to think about beating the Netherlands. There's soccer, there's players, but I insist there is also a group of human beings who have marked a turning point in the performances of the national team.

The foundations have been laid. Whatever happens, this "Tri" will be remembered in the future for the players who gave their all on the pitch, for each other, for their families and with dedication to the millions of fans who knock a ball about, week in and week out, while dreaming of playing for a team with the same humility that they themselves had when they came up with their first dreams.

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